An elegiac, discursive celebration of water and of those who are drawn to it. Jerome (The Writing Trade, 1992; Stone Work, 1989; etc.), who notes that he has been ""chasing after perfect waters all my life, pursuing . . . some holy grail of liquid perfection,"" isn't so much interested in an overview of water's physical qualities and characteristics as he is in exploring the ways in which water flows into our memories and shapes our imaginations. ""Water,"" Jerome writes, ""is always trying to tell us something."" He attempts to puzzle out what that is by focusing on sites that have been important to him: the little-known Mountain Fork River in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma, the subject of some idyllic childhood memories; the gentle, charming Deerfield River in New England; the powerful Raquette River in the Adirondacks; the famous clearwater springs of Florida where his mother loved to swim; the huge, magnificent lakes of eastern Canada; the warm, fertile Caribbean. Much of the book is given up to descriptions of time spent on these waters, usually in canoes, or in the wild land surrounding them, and to the memories of family and friends that the scenery evokes. Jerome's descriptions of natural landscapes are precise and exuberant, his portraits of those the trips cause him to remember frank and affectionate. While he weaves in a good many facts about the nature of rivers and lakes, it's clear that his primary concern is to puzzle out why his fascination with water, his ""love affair' with it, has been so central an element in his life. While there is no simple explanation forthcoming, Jerome's search has produced a robust, idiosyncratic, moving celebration of the natural world, of the rivers and lakes that form and sustain it, and of its ability to nourish and restore us.